How to mess with children’s heads

Raise them on a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. Libby Anne explains.

As a girl, I was told not to “give away pieces of my heart.” That meant that I was to make sure not to fall in love, because if I fell in love with someone I would give him a piece of my heart, a piece of heart that I would now no longer be able to give to my future husband. I would essentially be emotionally cheating on my future husband. In order to keep myself pure, I had to guard my heart and my emotions carefully.

Practically, what this meant was that ever time I had a crush on a guy I knew I felt incredibly guilty. I believed that I was giving away a piece of my heart, and I would never get it back. I was so afraid to love, too afraid to even want to start a relationship. I must, must, must keep myself pure! I thought to myself time and again. Turn your eyes away! Turn your thoughts away! Guard your mind! More chores, more homework, more searching for wild herbs and learning how to can – anything to stay away from boys and any thought of guy-girl relationships! I must keep my heart pure!

This book is very popular in conservative evangelical circles, so there are lots of messed-with young people out there.


  1. Newman says

    This book was all the rage in my social circle when I was in high school. Many, many sermons, messages, Sunday school lessons, and small group discussions focused on this idea of courtship vs. dating (courtship being godly, dating being worldly). I know at least a couple of [girl] friends of mine who broke up with their boyfriends after reading this book because they felt they were straying outside God’s plan for them just by dating.

    Two other highly popular books along the same lines: Boy Meets Girl, and I Gave Dating a Chance (the counter-argument to Joshua Harris’s book).

  2. Gordon says

    Wait, the girl gives the guy a piece of her heart, but… doesn’t he give her a piece of his in return?

  3. Daniel Schealler says


    Then she would be giving her husband a piece of another man’s heart. Which would totally be gay. *clutches pearls*


    Anyone else noticed recently the way the phrases ‘give away a part of yourself’ or ‘save yourself for marriage’ presuppose that sex or love are reducing exeperiences?

    As in: You have lost something by loving or having sex with another person.

    Which seems really, really weird once you think about it. What, in effect, have you actually lost? What was there that isn’t there any longer?

    The answer is usually ‘virginity’ or ‘purity’ – but that’s not right.

    Each case actually functions by gaining something. A new experience. In effect, one of the most intense and important experiences that take place within a human life.

    So it’s not about giving something away – it’s about gaining something.

    I only recently noticed this little quirk of a psychological assumption in the language we use. I was all proud of myself for spotting it – but I assume that a whole bunch of people have noticed this already and I just never got the memo.

  4. Ophelia Benson says

    Yikes, Newman – that’s so sad! If the books are hugely popular, there must be many thousands of kids being screwed up this way.

  5. Ophelia Benson says

    One of the commenters at NLQ pointed out the irony of saying this about dating and then saying “have all the children god sends because your heart expands with each one.” Uh……..

  6. Midnight Rambler says

    Ophelia: Check out the Amazon listing. #5,026 overall, #49 in “Love & Romance”, with 590 reviews (369 of them 5-star). The blurb claims 800,000 copies sold, with no indication of when that was. It’s definitely not just a fringe book. Scary indeed.

  7. Rawnaeris says

    I was put through this in my church when I was in Jr. High. The scary thing is that I was in a “Mainstream” church that was very liberal for the area. It has taken me years to begin undoing all of the emotionally harmful things I learned about relationships in church. They are emotional programming viruses, and I’m still not sure I’ve found all of them yet.

    I no longer find it surprising that I was courting an emotionally abusive alcoholic when I was still in High School.

    I think I can trace the faltering of my beliefs back to the moment my best friend, who was an atheist, convinced me that I was worth more than my Church and that boyfriend said I was. There is some irony there; the atheist valued who I was and taught me to value that, whereas the “perfect guy” and my support circle only taught me self-loathing.

  8. rwahrens says

    Help me out here.

    If you have to guard your heart against emotional entanglements, how do you finally meet and fall in love with that future husband? If you follow those instructions, how many possible “future husbands” would you turn away and disappoint before you finally give in (in a weak moment) and do the human thing and get emotionally involved?

    My head is going to explode over this one…its just too circular.

  9. Rawnaeris says


    It’s just another, subtler, ‘females are actually worthless’ campaign that the “mainstream” churches can get away with.

    The female isn’t worthy or smart enough to select her own mate/lover/husband/boyfriend. The male must approach her.
    And then she is expected to be flattered and bow to his every whim…but you are impure if you are pressured into any kind of sex (including oral, etc.) but if he can get you to break that he’s a manly man, a stud.

    I was only exposed to a light version of this, ie. I was not forced to read the book. One of my friends did, and she took it to heart. This belief system believes that even kissing prior to marriage is impure or “going too far”. She did not do anything other than hold the hand of the man she would marry until her wedding day, when they had their first kiss.

    She was held up as a paragon of our church.

    Fuck my head hurts just going back to those thought processes to explain to you. And my mother wonders why I refuse to worship her god *snort*.

  10. Cathy W says

    @rwahrens – As I understand it, the theory is this: You don’t meet your future husband on your own; girls are too silly to be trusted with anything that important. If a boy (probably someone you know from church) thinks he’s your future husband, he approaches your father and asks for permission to court you. It sounds like you’re allowed to start falling in love once you’re engaged – a lot of couples who went through “courtship” rather than dating hold it as a point of pride that their first kiss was at their wedding, and may not have even held hands before that.

  11. sailor1031 says

    if you don’t get your heart smashed at least once and badly scraped a couple more times before you’re twenty, you just ain’t been livin’. It’s part of growing up. How are ever going to have a great relationship if you don’t have any idea what’s going on? These people demonstrate all the emotional maturity of the pre-teen set.

  12. says

    What I find especially disturbing is that these ideas have entered the mainstream with abstinence education. Literally, what they teach in this book is what they teach unwitting high school students.

    Here’s an example: They have students put their arms side by side and duck tape them together, which stands for sex. Then they rip off the duck tape strip. Then you put your arm by a new student, and the teacher puts the duck tape on again. Each time you do this, it sticks less and less. Then they tell the kids that this is what will happen if they have sex with lots of people – they’ll bond with each emotionally, and then have no bonding left when it comes to bond with a spouse. Gag.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *